“The Lake Isle of Innisfree”
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there . . . .
— William Butler Yeats, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
John Board wrote that his mother canned six hundred quarts every summer. I suspect that both she and my mother felt an intense satisfaction and pride when they surveyed those gleaming jars of goodness and love. Linda Forst Linke wrote that her mother, my beloved Vivian, and her father canned vegetables. Linda’s job was to dip tomatoes in boiling water and remove the skins. She wrote, “I felt so important! It was a real job, and I felt a real sense of being part of helping the family get ready for winter and loved going down in the basement to bring up jars for dinner.”
When we lived at 312 N. Ritter in Irvington I used a hot water bath in which the jars are boiled to can the surplus from Bill’s garden until Margaret Burris, our next door neighbor, and we went in together and bought a pressure canner to share.
When I complained to a real estate colleague about the cost of Nonesuch Mincemeat, she said, “It’s just as good and far cheaper to can your own mincemeat, using green tomatoes.” It took so long to peel the peck of green tomatoes that I bought that I asked Bill to help. I figured that each quart was worth about $50, considering what I earned as a Realtor.
Tomato season is in! Bill says, “People sometimes put down Indiana, but no tomato can compare with an Indiana tomato!” Gardeners love to brag about their tomatoes. Hothouse tomatoes bought at the supermarket aren’t as tasty as those grown outside. Now we have fancy “heirloom” tomatoes, grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, but my father favored Burpees’ Big Boys.
People are passionate about tomatoes. About this time of year, I’d ask my mother, “How are you?” “Oh,” she’d moan. “I’m awful sick. My stomach’s all upset.” Eventually she realized that she was eating too many tomatoes. She’d make a meal of sliced tomatoes with a tiny bit of sugar sprinkled on them and bread and butter. During lunch a dear friend, said, “I love tomatoes! Sometimes I just wash a tomato and stand over the kitchen sink to eat it.”
I’m not willing to undertake the work and dedication of gardening. However, I understand the satisfaction that gardeners get from planting seeds that come to life and become something nutritious and delicious. Henry David Thoreau was an excellent gardener. His rows of green beans that he sold to supplement his meager income added up to seven miles in length. He wrote, “I came to love my rows, my beans . . . They attached me to the earth . . .”
Home gardening knows no national boundaries. When Bill and I travelled in Italy we saw many vegetable gardens, even in tiny city yards. Bill called his garden on Ritter “my back 40 feet.” After we moved to Edmondson Ave., he wondered why we got only one mess out of the green beans that he planted. Our neighbors enlightened him: “We’ve had the best fun, watching the rabbits eat your beans!” Another summer he planted zucchini. There were so many blossoms that we even fried some. However, he got few zucchini. He discovered why when he cleared the garden in the fall. There was a rabbit nest right in the middle of his zucchini patch. So convenient!
I know what many Hoosiers are having for dinner tonight: roasting ears slathered with butter, sliced homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers in vinegar and fresh green beans. Oh yum of yums!
“One must cultivate one’s garden!” Voltaire